George Burniston Oration

The AFRM's keynote lecture was named the George Burniston Oration soon after our incorporation into the RACP, as part of our efforts to showcase our history and pay homage to our founders.

About George Burniston

George Garrett Burniston was born in Sydney in 1914. He was educated at Sydney High School and the University of Sydney, from where he graduated MBBS in 1939. He came from humble beginnings to become an architect of rehabilitation for persons with disability in Australia. Through his involvement in international organisations, he influenced the policy-making decisions within the United Nations and in the area of international rehabilitation.

After graduation, George was a resident medical officer at Hornsby Hospital for two years before being commissioned as a flight lieutenant in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Medical Services. He also served in Great Britain with the Royal Air Force (RAF) where he met pioneers in orthopaedic surgery, neurosurgery and plastic surgery early in his postgraduate career.

Very early in his career he became aware that unless there was an outcome policy for the treatment of severely injured people, then excellent medical care did not always result in their return to a productive life.

George referred to the field of rehabilitation medicine as the “Cinderella” of medical specialties. Through his perseverance it became recognised as a principal speciality, offering a career structure for young doctors whom he encouraged to enter it. As well as doctors, he also encouraged allied health professionals to pursue a career in this area.

He described himself as a fatalist but fate played little role in his determination to place rehabilitation both in the broader context and in the specialty of rehabilitation medicine onto a firm footing in Australia.

For his work in rehabilitation of the handicapped, he was awarded an OBE (1969) and CMG (1972). He was a Foundation Diplomate in Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine of the Australian Postgraduate Federation in Medicine in 1970. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Medicine (1972) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Health in 1973. George served as a member of the WHO Expert Panel on Medical Rehabilitation for over 20 years and was a member, later vice-president, of the Council of the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled until 1973. He was also an advisor to the National Specialist Qualification Advisory Committee.

Read George's full profile in the College Roll.

Keynote speakers

Year Speaker Keynote
2021 Professor John Olver Role changes and future directions of rehabilitation medicine in the post-COVID-19 era
2020 Associate Professor Adam Scheinberg To infinity and beyond: a state-wide model of service delivery for children living with disability
2019 Professor Chris Poulos Impacting health along the life course
2018 Associate Professor Michael Pollack Shifting definitions of health and illness; and the role of rehabilitation
2017 John Walsh AM Evolution of NDIS: Putting Disability on the Map
2016 Professor Jianan Li Neuro-injury and Rehabilitation in Natural Disasters
2015 Professor Derick Wade Healthcare disables people, rehabilitation can change the culture of healthcare and thus reduce societal disability
2014 Professor Ian Cameron Rehabilitation and Older People
2013 Dr James Gosney Professionalising the disaster rehabilitation response: Role of the ISPRM Committee on Rehabilitation Disaster Relief
2012 Professor Bruce Dobkin Confounders and Proposed Solutions for Neurorehabilitation Clinical Trials
2011 Professor Mark Jensen Psychological Factors in Chronic Pain following SCI and other disabilities
2010 Associate Professor Richard Jones George Garrett Burniston: The man, the mission and the memory
2009 Dr Harry McNaughton Rehabilitation: Across continents, across ages
2008 Dr Alex Ganora Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation
2007 Professor Peter Langhorne Implementing Evidence
2006 Dr Adrian Von der Borch On the Margins of Rehabilitation
2005 Dr Lynne Turner-Stokes Evidence for Effectiveness of Rehabilitation following Brain Injury
2004 Professor Robert Helme Challenges in the Measurement and Management of Pain in the Elderly
2003 Professor Peter Brooks Rehabilitation and the Bone and Joint Decade
2002 Professor Lex Frieden Rehabilitation — A Global Perspective
2001 Professor Gerold Stucki Operationalisation of the ICIDH-2 for Clinical Practice
2000 Dr William Stone Rehabilitation: Where have we been & where are we going?
1999 Professor Roy Brown Challenges facing the education of health professionals in Rehabilitation Medicine as we approach the Year 2000
1998 Professor Chris Silagy Evidence Based Medicine
1997 Professor Herbert Kerr-Graham Gait Analysis
1996 Professor Murray Brandstater Bridging the Gap – Hospital to Community Care
1995 Professor Carl V. Granger Preserving the Quality of Healthcare in the Business World
1994 Professor John Miles Little Confronting the Present, Confronting the Future
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